Is Pastrana In ‘The Hijacking Of Flight 601’ Based On A Real-Life Colombian President?


In the latest Netflix series, The Hijacking of Flight 601, we were made privy to one of the longest hijackings in the history of Latin America. The series has been inspired by real events, but creators Pablo Gonzales and CS Prince took certain creative liberties and dramatized certain events to basically increase the entertainment quotient.

In the series, we saw that just after Pirateque told the hijackers that he was going to give them the money, Colombian President Misael Pastrana Borrero announced on national television that Colombia was not to negotiate with them. Pirateque was in a fix, but he still went ahead with what he had decided and, in the end, landed in trouble for not following orders. Misale Pastrana was actually the president of Colombia at the time, and it is important to understand what made him resort to anti-terrorist policies when the airlines were ready to negotiate with the hijackers. For a long time, the government was trying to curb the violence in the nation that was being spread by gorilla movements like the ELN and the FARC. As shown in the series, during Pastrana’s tenure, the nation saw a steep rise in the number of hijackings. It had become a normalized thing, as anytime these groups wanted any funds or resources, they put the government at gunpoint and made it agree to their demands. Hijacking a plane was not the only crime these rebel groups committed; they carried out all sorts of things to generate capital for themselves.

Obviously, a lot of young people who were a part of such groups were victims of their own circumstances, and the government probably knew about it because, a lot of times, such political dialogue had been initiated by the opposition parties. It is true that Misael Pastrana, in real life, adopted a policy to not give any sort of levy to these rebel organizations, and in pursuance of that, he made it very clear that the flight wouldn’t be landing in Bogota. It is true that these rebel groups propagated the theory of radical defiance, and the young minds were brainwashed into believing that the only way to escape oppression was through violence. They were given the motto “I resist. Therefore I am,” and a lot of desperate, underprivileged people saw it as their only hope.

In the series, we also saw that the two hijackers, Eusebio and Toro, were not really criminals, but their circumstances, combined with the company of certain wrong people, influenced them so much that they were able to take such a drastic step. There is not much information presented about the fact that the defense minister was acting on his own accord or if the president had given him direct orders to attack the flight if it landed there. The pilots on board did, in fact, make a gentleman’s agreement with the hijackers because they wanted the lives of the stewardesses to be saved. There was an official inquiry initiated by the government, as they had doubts that even the pilot and the crew on board had conspired with the hijackers.

The government’s stance did somehow make the people on board feel a bit alienated, and they couldn’t understand where they had gone wrong to be subjected to such behavior. However, the president’s policy was very clear: he didn’t want to compromise in any manner when it came to dealing with the rebel groups. He probably believed that if he didn’t take that stance, then such incidents would keep happening, and the country’s economic status would go for a toss. On August 21, 1997, President Misael Pastrana took his last breath, and his legacy was carried forward by his son, who became the President of Colombia in 1998. 

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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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